British Isles, Eastern Europe
Forests, suburbs, orchards and fields
European Goldfinches are high-energy animals, and need to be able to fly inside the cage to stay healthy. An appropriate cage is wider than it is tall to provide ample space for flying from perch to perch. Bar spacing should be no more than 1¼ - 2" apart to prevent the bird from getting caught between the wires. Goldfinches are social birds, and need the company of other softbills. They are peaceful, and can be kept with other species of softbills or finches that are similar in size and temperament as long as the cage is large enough. A large flight cage or aviary would be appropriate housing for this situation.
Keep at least two or three perches in the cage, but don't crowd the cage with too many accessories, or there will be little room left for flying. Choose perches of varying widths and textures; this helps to keep your bird's feet healthy and strong. Make sure that all the perches are wide enough for the bird to easily maintain its balance while using them.
Goldfinches benefit from having a nest or nests in the cage, but choose a size that is not adequate for breeding if you don't want to encourage them to reproduce. If you notice a bird protecting a particular nest, you may want to change the size of the nest, move the nest, or remove it in order to help discourage breeding behaviors.
Goldfinches can be kept at average household temperatures, but avoid fluctuations in temperature and drafts. Place the cage off of the floor and away from drafty areas such as doorways, vents or windows.
You may wish to cover your bird's cage at night, or move their cage to a quiet room for sleeping. Covering the cage, or placing it in a quiet area helps your bird to get the rest it needs to stay healthy. Even quiet noise in a room such as a television or computer can disturb your bird's rest, and keep it from getting a healthy amount of sleep.
The natural diet of European goldfinches consists of grains, seeds, vegetation and an occasional insect. Your bird can best be cared for by providing a variety of foods. European goldfinches will not survive if fed traditional pet pellet foods and seed mixes. They require a seed blend with a large proportion of niger (nyjer) thistle seed and sunflower hearts, as well as plenty of fresh green vegetables daily. We feed Goldenfeast formulas and mix in some seed diet when appropriate.
Because of their special dietary needs, it is important to include a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in your goldfinch's diet every day. Some healthy fruits include apples, grapes, bananas and melons. Vegetables and greens such cress, chickweed, dandilion greens, romaine lettuce, spinach, kale, collard greens, grass seedlings, cucumber, and broccoli are nutritious foods. When feeding fresh foods, be sure to remove anything uneaten after a few hours so that the food does not spoil, and to wash the dishes thoroughly before using them again. You can also offer your bird insects or hard-boiled egg as a treat. A variety of live and dried insects are available at That Pet Place.
If feeding fruits the stool may become runny for a while. Many birds cannot tolerate too much citric acid, therefore we recommend limiting the amount of citrus you feed to your bird. When changing the food your bird is given, do so gradually. A sudden change may upset your bird's digestive system, or the bird may refuse to eat the new food.
With a well balanced diet you should not need to give your bird vitamin supplements. Before giving any supplements in the bird's water, make sure you clean and wash the water dish daily to remove any residue from the supplements.
Grooming and Hygiene
Birds like to bathe, but different birds prefer to bathe in different ways. Some like to bathe in a shallow dish, some like to be sprayed with a fine mist. Offering your finch the chance to bathe helps it to maintain healthy, beautiful plumage.
Clipping your finch's wings is not recommended, as finches have a very high metabolic rate, and so need to have the ability to fly in order to get enough exercise and burn energy. Finches do not normally appreciate being handled, so wing clipping is not necessary. Nails should be trimmed by a qualified person only if they become unhealthy, too long or interfere with perching.
Clean the cage, perches and toys daily with warm soapy water. Use a non-toxic cleaner such as mild dish liquid and make sure that the soap is completely rinsed off when you are finished cleaning.
Disinfect the cage and perches with bleach water regularly while keeping the bird in a separate room. Bleach fumes can kill your new pet. Allowing the cage to air dry in sunlight is a natural way to disinfect. Make sure the smell from the bleach is completely gone before you place your bird back inside the cage.
Bored birds are known to have behavior problems. Birds need to be active to maintain good health and to prevent them from getting overweight. Foraging toys are excellent because they stimulate the natural avian instinct to search for food. Mirrors can be confusing for birds, as they will sometimes bond to the bird in the mirror instead of bonding to other birds. If your bird behaves in this way toward a mirror, it should be removed. Mirrors should not be used in substitute of having a companion for your bird. Replace toys and accessories that become worn or damaged, as they can injure your pet.
Rotate toys when your bird becomes disinterested in them but remember never to place an unfamiliar toy in the cage without first introducing it to the bird in a neutral location. Allow the bird to see and get used to the new toy in a area outside the cage before moving it inside. When you change toys for your bird or even move your bird to a new location in the house, please be aware of how sensitive most birds are to changes.
Behavior & Interaction
European goldfinches are very social birds who live peacefully in large groups. For this reason, they need a lot of social interaction with other birds in order to stay happy and healthy. It is best to keep at least two finches together. European goldfinches can be kept in colonial situations, as long as the enclosure is of appropriate size. They can also sometimes be kept with other types of finches, as long as the cage is large enough to allow the different birds to have their own territories and interact without conflict or too much competition. Please research all potential cagemates carefully to make sure that the birds will be likely to get along.
When taking your new bird home please remember that the surroundings in your home will be new to it and it may take some time for the bird to feel settled in the new environment. Speak softly and move very slowly whenever you are near the bird's cage. It is recommended that you do not handle your finch, as they are very fragile. Birds can be scared to death. Frightening a bird can cause the bird enough stress to harm and possibly kill it. Move slowly and talk quietly to your bird until it is comfortable with you and its new home
We recommend purchasing a book about your new pet.
Always wash your hands before and after handling each animal.
If you notice signs of illness it is very important to get the vet promptly as most birds will hide illness until it is in an advanced stage. We recommend taking your bird to the vet for regular checkups BEFORE the bird ever becomes ill. Visiting your vet before the bird is ill will allow the vet to see your bird when it is healthy and help the vet create a routine preventive health care program for your new pet.
Signs of a Healthy Animal:
• Active, alert, and sociable
• Eats and drinks throughout the day
• Dry nostrils and bright, dry eyes
• Beak, legs, and feet appear normal
• Clean, dry vent
• Smooth, well-groomed feathers
• Beak swelling or accumulations
• Fluffed, plucked, or soiled feathers especially around the vent
• Constant sitting on floor of cage
• Wheezing or coughing
• Runny or discolored stools
• Favoring one foot when not asleep, it is normal for birds to sleep on one foot
• Eye or nasal discharge
• Red or swollen eyes
• Loss of appetite